The Nineteenth Century [Routledge History of Philosophy, V. 7]

By C. L. Ten | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3

J. S. Mill

Ethics and politics

R. F. Khan


ON LIBERTY

John Stuart Mill’s mature views on ethics and politics are to be found in On Liberty (published in 1859), Utilitarianism (1861), Considerations on Representative Government (1861) and The Subjection of Women (written in 1861-2 but published in 1869). Of these, Liberty is the centrepiece, detailing the doctrines and themes which govern most of the discussion in the other works. It is also the work by which Mill will be most remembered. He himself picked it out as ‘likely to survive longer than anything else’ that he had written. 1 It has aroused more controversy than any other of his writings, and the essay On Liberty has been taken by many of Mill’s critics as well as his supporters to be the most distinctive if not authoritative statement of the liberal position. 2

In Mill’s words, the subject of the essay is ‘moral, social, and intellectual liberty asserted against the despotism of society whether exercised by governments or by public opinion’ (15:581). From the outset, Mill emphasizes the threat to individual liberty posed by ‘the tyranny of the majority’ exercised either by a democratically elected government or through the non-legal pressure of public opinion (219-20). 3 This was a concern that Mill had expressed in earlier writings, notably in the article on Bentham4 and in his reviews of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. 5 In Liberty the main threat to individual independence is portrayed as coming from majority rule. This is because Mill believed that, at least in the western world, democracy based on universal suffrage was the inevitable next stage of history (218). 6 But it makes little difference to his main arguments whether the threat to individual liberty comes from a majority dominated govern-

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The Nineteenth Century [Routledge History of Philosophy, V. 7]
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • General Editors' Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements x
  • Chronology xiv
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - The Early Utilitarians 5
  • Chapter 2 - Whewell's Philosophy of Science and Ethics 32
  • Chapter 3 - J. S. Mill 62
  • Bibliography 96
  • Chapter 4 - J. S. Mill 98
  • Chapter 5 - Sidgwick 122
  • Chapter 6 - Comte and Positivism 148
  • Bibliography 174
  • Chapter 7 - Nietzsche 177
  • Chapter 8 - Dilthey 206
  • Bibliography 235
  • Chapter 9 - Logic and the Philosophy of Mathematics in the Nineteenth Century 242
  • Chapter 10 - Philosophy of Biology in the Nineteenth Century 272
  • Bibliography 296
  • Chapter 11 - The Separation of Psychology from Philosophy 297
  • Chapter 12 - American Pragmatism 357
  • Chapter 13 - American Pragmatism 381
  • Bibliography 405
  • Chapter 14 - Green, Bosanquet and the Philosophy of Coherence 408
  • Bibliography 434
  • Chapter 15 - Bradley 437
  • Bibliography 458
  • Glossary 459
  • Index 461
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